5
Feb

Watercolor: Flirting (and why you should Exhibit Your Art)

a bowl of apples and a bouquet of roses back lit on a table by tall glass doors showing a deck and patio furniture with a closed umbrella and a landscape in the background

Flirting 8×6 graphite and watercolor (available here)

Exhibit Your Art

If you’re a beginning artist, it’s incredibly daunting to exhibit your art on a blog or on social media for the public to view, judge, or critique. But it’s important, and here are some encouraging reasons why. Pretend we’re having tea on a porch somewhere surrounded by majestic pine trees – serenaded by birdsong – and squinty rays of sunlight while we discuss this over a bowl of blueberries.

Artists make art to Express. And Share. Artistic expression is a release, a purge of the heart, an assortment of poetic visual statements about how you see the world. Artistic sharing is an offering, a communion, a gesture to another human being to say ‘Look, I noticed something special in this mundane thing we walk past each day, and I tried to highlight it’s most beautiful parts, so you could see them too.’

You must put your head into the lion’s mouth if the performance is to be a success.  ~Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

The artist with her arm extended to hug two people - a her husband and son

My family is at the core of my artistic journey. My husband and one of our kids visiting the Artwalk in San Diego (& bringing me kettlecorn). 🙂

It Takes a Village

Posting your art on a blog or social media is a bold step in your creative journey, and it’s crucial if you want to grow your ability to communicate with your work successfully, and connect with other artists and art lovers. The feedback, friendships and connections will propel your art further and faster in a group setting, even when your access to these like-minded encouragers is through your phone, ipad or computer monitor.  Direct feedback from your community will grow your skills faster than learning all by yourself.

Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit. ~Aristotle (384–322 BC)

an ipad with a reference photo, a glass of red wine and a sketch in process

Sketching in the evening – a little 6×8 interior with a still life in the foreground

They Won’t Know Unless You Tell Them

Before posting your art online, take a deep breath and disarm your expectations for global praise. We’re starting small. Unless you are an artist wunderkind, or you have a corporate marketing team, shrinkify your applause-expectations, and start at home. Share work with your friends, family and neighbors. Create an email list that includes your siblings, cousins, doctor, dentist, teachers and friends. Let them know you’ve started a blog, or you created a Facebook or Instagram account to exhibit your art, and ask them to follow along. Share, rather then pitch. You’re not trying to close a sale – you’re just adding a little eye candy to their inbox, and building community.  (Read this excellent post by Katherine Tyrrell.) Add links to your new online presence on your email signature.

a collagraph plate being inked for printing on instagram with 18 likes and a comment

Sharing process shots on Instagram, and growing a community of like-minded artists

A couple of Likes or Instagram hearts will boost your conviction to keep at it, especially when you’re feeling stuck. I’ve seen people blossom from posting their first drawing *ever* , to posting a new drawing every day with a growing list of followers encouraging and commenting on every new sketchpad adventure.  It’ll transform you from being a single flower in a pot, to a swaying bud in a sunny meadow of flowers.

The artist with her arm around a woman standing inside a booth surrounded by paintings at an art festival

A friend 💞 who subscribes to my newsletter surprised me with a visit at an art festival.

Small But Mighty

Just because your following is small, that doesn’t mean it’s not also Awesome & Mighty. We tend to measure success by the numbers we see in the entertainment industry; millionaires, with millions of followers and a dozen homes in far away, exotic countries. So, first, let’s take a deep breath, and dial things back to our singular, artistically adorned patch on this earth. Re-target your focus on simply Starting. A handful of deep friendships will satisfy and nurture better than hundreds of acquaintances. If your garden of followers, encouragers and fans is tiny enough to fit in a flower pot on the porch, grow them well. Communicate with them, nurture your relationship to each member of your growing squad, and practice gratitude for their connection to you over art. #findyourteam  One friend stopping by an art festival to say hello can brighten my entire weekend. One comment on social media transforms a post into a handshake connection with another human.

The world is so empty if one thinks only of mountains, rivers & cities; but to know someone who thinks & feels with us, & who, though distant, is close to us in spirit, this makes the earth for us an inhabited garden. ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)

working on a watercolor at the kitchen counter with a small pad, a tiny portable palette of watercolors and a glass of wine

Adding layers of transparent watercolor washes over the pencil drawing

Too Close to See Clearly

Putting your art out into the world will undoubtedly expose you to criticism. And that’s a good thing. Art school includes critiques. Art mentors steer us away from things that aren’t working, and focus our efforts on things that deserve practice. Outside commentary is necessary. We’re so close to the work – we’ve looked at it for so long – sometimes we can’t see what it needs in order to flourish.

a watercolor in process, a van gogh pocket box palette and a cup of coffee

Finishing the little watercolor the next morning with lots of sunshine and a cup of coffee

Sort Before Consuming

Not all feedback is positive, and not every effort in the studio is entitled to praise. The trick is to separate your emotional reaction from the details. Ponder the criticism after you’ve locked your ego in the attic. Pull the observation apart on the potting bench, extract the useable I-Can-Do-That bits, and discard the rest. I’m well-versed in failure, rejection, and negative feedback. It only stings when you don’t manage it. All criticism and rejection has contributed immensely to my artistic growth. You’ll never please all of the people, all of the time with your art, because tastes range from dark blood-colored abstracts to pink unicorns with rainbows.  Just do your work, find your art friends, and get better at it with repeated practice.  Take the constructive criticism to the sorting room. If the critique is mean-spirited, toss it in the compost bin. If the suggestions feel right, deploy them with gratitude that someone thought well enough of you to offer feedback on your work.  And then get back to it.

There’s a difference between criticism and constructive criticism. With the latter, you’re constructing at the same time that you’re criticizing. ~Ed Catmull

 

Do you have a friend that makes lovely art, but shows it to no one? Does someone in your family have piles of beautiful paintings that nobody ever sees? Have you read news articles about estate sales loaded with amazing artwork that was never shared with the public until after a lifetime of creating beauty ended?  Don’t be those folks. Share your work, and grow your artistic community. It’ll help your progress as an artist immensely.

Thanks for stopping in, and I’ll see you in the next post –

Belinda

P.S. You can subscribe to get each post as an email by signing up here.

Art Quote

Walk with the dreamers, the believers, the courageous, the cheerful, the planners, the doers, the successful people with their heads in the clouds and their feet on the ground. Let their spirit ignite a fire within you to leave this world better than when you found it…

~Wilferd Arlan Peterson

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14 Responses to Watercolor: Flirting (and why you should Exhibit Your Art)

  1. Monica February 15, 2018 at 6:23 pm #

    Hi
    I work in watercolor and printmaking (non toxic / water based only).

    • Belinda DelPesco February 20, 2018 at 8:16 am #

      We’re twins! How fun! Let us know when you get your web site or blog up and running so we can come visit. 🙂

  2. Monica February 12, 2018 at 8:55 am #

    Great advice thank you Belinda! I finally got my art website up and need to take the next steps of starting a blog or an Etsy shop. It is scary putting oneself out there!
    Love your painting! I am drawn to images of views looking out windows! Gorgeous!
    Cheers
    Monica

    • Belinda DelPesco February 15, 2018 at 6:33 am #

      Hi Monica, Thanks for the feedback, and hearty congratulations to you on launching your art website! Which media do you work in? Leave us a link here so we can visit!

  3. Marie February 6, 2018 at 7:09 pm #

    I want to print this and frame it! I need to read it every day. Thanks for these wise words!

    • Belinda DelPesco February 7, 2018 at 6:01 am #

      Hi Marie, I’m glad the words reached you at the right time and in the right way, and I hope you meander down a path that takes you exactly where you need to be. 🙂

  4. lvetopaint08 February 6, 2018 at 6:03 am #

    My art is out there, Etsy, exhibits and art fairs. I’m looking for a classy way to make title and price tags.

    • Belinda DelPesco February 7, 2018 at 6:07 am #

      Hi Carol, I batch print mine (8 per page) in Microsoft Word on cardstock, with a column of info: my name/logo, title, original [medium], price and my website. I cut a 1×1 inch piece of foam core and mount each label to that so the cardstock lables “float” off the surface of my display panels at art festivals.

  5. lvetopaint08 February 6, 2018 at 6:02 am #

    My art is out there, selling at exhibits and art fairs. I’m looking for a classy way to make title and price tags.

  6. Barbara Muir February 5, 2018 at 10:23 pm #

    Hi Belinda, beautiful work, and great advice. I do know people who paint well and don’t exhibit. For some people there are steps that are too hard even to imagine. Your advice may help them. I know it has been wonderful for me knowing you and seeing your work.

    You are a constant inspiration.
    XOXOXOXOXO Barbara

    • Belinda DelPesco February 7, 2018 at 6:15 am #

      Hi my friend, I know folks who make beautiful work, and they don’t exhibit either – for the same reasons. The steps are too hard. But I suspect they’re only hard because people don’t know what to do. Or in what order. You figured it out, and I’m grateful because that means you’re here, and we are connected, so I’ll celebrate that as an art-victory. 🙂

  7. Judy February 5, 2018 at 12:51 pm #

    Okay, you are tempting me…but how do you fit a blog into your busy schedule? It’s one other thing ina busy day…would I have time to keep it going, I ask myself? Answer, Belinda please….

    • Belinda DelPesco February 7, 2018 at 6:48 am #

      Hi Judy, You start small, put the time on your calendar (30 minutes) as a repeating event, and commit to giving it a go. If you don’t have new work, start by posting from your archives. If all you can manage is a single image, and a title with a few words about what you learned, or felt or hurdled with that painting, do that. It’ll get as routine as reading email after a few months. My early posts were very simple – look at this one from 10 years ago: https://wp.me/p5WQio-cd You can do it. You’ve got this.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Watercolor: Good at This (& being generous Artists) - Belinda Del Pesco - May 8, 2018

    […] It’s easy to justify a neutral existence in the online art world: with-holding likes & sharing on social media. Lurking instead of engaging.  Rarely leaving compliments or inquiries. Artists are known for keeping things close to the vest, out of insecurity or shyness, or worry about being copied, judged or ignored. And any one of those things could happen, but really, the whole point of making art – for most – is to share it. […]

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